The long-lost joy of giving

I have had a headache for days now, and I seem to have developed this terrible habit of waking at least an hour before the alarm goes.  My stress levels are through the roof.  Why?  It’s only a month til Christmas.  Apparently the most wonderful time of the year.  Is it really?

With every year that passes, I find myself feeling sicker and sicker around this time.  Once Hallowe’en is done, shops bring out their Santas, trees, elves and bells.  You cannot rest, breathe or recover from one season before you are dragged, kicking and screaming, into the next.  The question now is not, ‘how are you?’.  It is the asking for a kicking query, ‘have you started your Christmas shopping?’, or the more baffling one, ‘have you got everything in?’  In where?  In my overpacked head, yes, no thanks to you.  Not anywhere else.

At five this morning it struck me -in the weeks leading up to what should be a celebration of God Incarnate, of Christ coming to earth, we have become banks.  We ask for exactly what we want (or need, which in someways is worse), and if we don’t get it, we take it back and exchange it, or get the money equivalent.  We make lists with our children, guiding them carefully to what is possible, and allocating each item on their list to the appropriate aunt, uncle or grandparent.  If we’re stuck for small things, we just encourage a contribution system.  That word makes my fresh crawl.  Little Jonny, here’s your single massive present that you’ll probably use once and then forget about, and it’s from everybody, because no-one could bring themselves to actually think of something to give you that would show you they love you.

Therein lies the crux of the matter.  We give presents now because we feel we have to, that it is expected of us, that our relatives would stop liking us if we didn’t.  We don’t give because we saw something and it immediately made us think of someone who would love to have it.  We don’t give because we are so full of deep gratitude for the ultimate gift offered to us all in Jesus.  We just do it because we’re stuck in the cold business of financial transactions.

If you stopped and asked yourself, what do I really want in my  life, what do I really want to give, I don’t think it could be found in a shop.  I would put hugs from my children at the top of my list, closely followed by a chance to have dinner at home with my husband, just talking, putting the world to rights.  Those precious things are non-refundable, unforgettable gifts that last a life-time.  You say perfume or socks, I say love.  And yes, in answer to your question, I do have everything in.  It’s right here, see.  In my heart.

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